8.1a Faculty Issues - Case Studies (1)
Case Study Number 1
You have a freshman student in your class, Jane Doe, who has been struggling most of the semester. Jane, who is a minority, has had difficulty completing tests and has not scored above a C on any exam. You also notice that Jane seems to daydream a great deal during lectures. You recently assigned a research paper and Jane failed to turn in the required work. Given her exam scores and the zero for the research paper, Jane will have to do very well on the one remaining test and on the final exam to pass the class. Based on your experience, you believe Jane is a classic case of a kid with an attention deficit disorder. You ask Jane to meet with you in your office to discuss the uphill battle she will have just to pass your class. During this meeting you tell Jane that based on what you have observed in her coursework and her demeanor in class that you believe she has ADHD and should consider seeking treatment. In response, Jane tells you that she in fact was diagnosed with a learning disability, including ADHD, in the 8th grade and while she received disability accommodations in high school (e.g. - extended time on tests, quiet testing environment, etc.) where she graduated with a 3.3 GPA, she made the decision not to seek accommodations in college because she didn't believe she continued to need them. However, she now realizes she made a mistake and asks that you give her extra credit and also allow her to turn in the research paper as disability accommodations because her ADHD causes problems with her memory and she simply forgot to turn in the research assignment. Jane rushes off to another class and asks that you please consider her request. That afternoon you receive a telephone message from Jane's father, followed up by an email that evening, where he asks you to contact him to discuss Jane's coursework and what you can do to help his daughter. You have a class that night and don't have time to call or email him. The next morning Jane drops off a package for you with the department secretary labeled "Confidential Disability Documentation". When you get to your office, you see the package and also an email from Jane that states that her dad called an attorney who told him that the disability accommodations she asked for are reasonable and that if you don't provide her the accommodations, her parents plan to sue you for discrimination under the ADA since you know she has a disability. Jane goes on to state she has found out that a white student in your class receives disability accommodations; therefore, if you don't provide her the accommodations she has requested that her parents also plan to sue you based on her status as a minority.
Please identify the legal and practical issues you see above
- The Disability Resource Center (DRC) is the office on campus where disability documentation should be supplied and where upon review of the documentation of disability the DRC determines "reasonable accommodations" for students with disabilities.
- Instructors should never initiate conversations about suspected disabilities with students. This could result in a "regarded as" claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If an instructor has concerns about a student, she/he should contact the DRC who will suggest a meeting with the student to discuss the array of services the University has to assist students who are struggling. These include the DRC, Counseling Center, Academic Center for Excellence (ACE).
- Student confidentiality under FERPA and state law. Generally, instructors cannot communicate with parents without the student's written consent. As such, talking to the parent or communicating with them about the student is generally not permitted.
- Students do not decide what accommodations they are entitled to. Rather, after review of the documentation of disability the DRC will determine what reasonable accommodations the student is entitled to receive.
- Based on the allegation of discrimination she should be referred, in writing, to the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP). Also, once a lawsuit is threatened, please contact Academic Affairs who will consult with the Office of the General Counsel to assist faculty member in responding.
- If a faculty member is threatened with a lawsuit, the University almost always defends the individual. The issue is whether the faculty member was acting within his/her authority and in a matter reasonably expected of a UNF employee.
8.1b Faculty Issues - Case Studies (2)
Case Study Number 2
After teaching a night class, you walk toward the parking garage to head home where you see three students, two males and one female, that seem to be horsing around but as you get closer you notice that something isn't right. The two males are yelling profanities at the female and stating sexually inappropriate things to her. You overhear one male state: "you are just sleeping with Jones to get an A". The other male states something similar to how could she sleep with such an old man. The two males begin pushing the female and touching her in a sexually inappropriate manner. At a minimum you believe you have witnessed sexual harassment if not a sexual assault. You shout for them to stop and the two males run from the scene, while the female drops to the ground sobbing. When you reach the female you recognize her as Sally Smith, one of your students. You ask Sally what caused the situation and if she wants you to call the police. Sally asks you not to do anything because she knows the two guys and is afraid of what they would do to her if she got them in trouble. She tells you one of the guys is an old boyfriend and when he gets angry he can be physically and verbally abusive; therefore, she is certain that if the police got involved he would harm her. Sally tells you she thinks the situation is over and asks if you would just sit with her for a minute until she can pull herself together. You and Sally walk to a nearby bench where you both sit down and begin to talk. After a few minutes, Sally states she should have never told them about Ted. You ask who Ted is and Sally responds, Ted Jones, one of her other instructors. Sally tells you that she and several classmates, including the two males you saw, were having a few beers in the Student Union when one of her friends started teasing her about her relationship with Dr. Jones. Since you are new to UNF, you don't really know Ted Jones other than he is a faculty member in your department. Sally tells you that she and Ted have been dating since they attended a conference together in Atlanta last month and that they are in love. Sally sees nothing wrong with the relationship because they are both single consenting adults who enjoy each other's company. She also tells you she doesn't have an A in Ted's class just because she is sleeping with him, but because she works very hard in class while the two guys who attacked her are just slackers and will be lucky to pass Ted's class.
Please identify the legal and practical issues you see above.
- If faculty member believes she viewed a crime such as an assault, she is obligated to contact the police regardless of the student's statements to her. There are no "off the record" discussions when these types of issues are involved.
- This also may be a case where the issue may be referred to the office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) because of the sexual harassing behavior of the two males. Their actions have to be addressed and investigation may lead them to be referred to Student Conduct.
- We would want to refer Sally to the Counseling Center. She is making choices with relationships that are unhealthy. This referral could occur directly the Counseling Center or through the Serving our Students (SOS) team.
- We should also refer the student to the Victim Advocate to obtain assistance in how to address her fear of being attacked. We have often involved the University Police Department (UPD) in this type of situations as well so that they can advise the student how to take measures to improve their safety. These referrals should be made in writing.
- Dr. Jones' conduct with Sally violates the University's Amorous Relationship policy. Therefore, this issue should be referred to the Chair and also Academic Affairs for further investigation.
8.1c Faculty Issues - Case Studies (3)
Case Study Number 3
You assign your class a research project where they will need to prepare a detailed research paper. You advise the students that your primary concern is to evaluate their research and writing skills so they can research and write on topics that they may have studied in other classes, but prior to them beginning work on the project you must meet with each student and approve their topic and research plan. After approving all topics and research plans, one of your students, Susie Williams, comes to your office to discuss what she states is an alarming discovery. She tells you that when she was performing her research that she came across a paper that she turned in as a research assignment for a course she took from Dr. John Doe last year. Susie tells you she was shocked to see her paper in the XYZ Journal but was even more surprised that Dr. Doe is listed as the sole author of the work and her name does not appear anywhere on the document. Susie shows you a copy of the graded paper that she handed in to Dr. Doe and you compare it to the journal article and with the exception of a few minor wording edits and a slightly different title, the documents are the same. Susie doesn't know what to do. She is scheduled to graduate next semester and Dr. Doe is the only faculty member who teaches the final class she needs to meet her degree requirements. She tells you that she can't even begin to confront Dr. Doe because she knows that if she does, she will never graduate. You are also concerned for your own career because Dr. Doe is the most senior faculty member in your department and has a reputation as an outstanding scholar. Further, you are up for tenure next year and believe that if you report what Susie has told you that Dr. Doe, and possibly his colleagues, will not vote in favor of you receiving tenure.
Please identify the issues you see above
- Now that you have been made aware of this issue, you have an obligation to report the matter as the conduct seems to violate the Policy and Procedure for Dealing with Misconduct in Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities. (Section 10.2, Faculty Handbook). You should consult your chair and/or Academic Affairs if you are concerned about retaliation by Dr. Doe.
- The Faculty Affairs Committee has a formal procedure for investigating allegations of scholarly misconduct which applies to this type of situation.
- It is important to note that the student owns the copyright interest in any document that they create and that a faculty member cannot reuse the student's intellectual property without first obtaining the student's permission. Taking another's intellectual property and reusing it without permission generally constitutes copyright infringement and may result in personal liability to the infringer.
8.1d Faculty Issues - Case Studies (4)
Case Study Number 4
Your program leader has had to take emergency medical leave and you have been selected over two more senior faculty members to serve as acting program leader in her absence. Dr. Smith, who has been at the University for 15 years, is especially upset that you have been selected to serve in this capacity. You learn that Dr. Smith was disgruntled before your arrival at UNF because the previous year his application for promotion to full professor was denied primarily because his evaluations indicate he lacks effectiveness in the area of teaching. Despite his record of poor teaching, Dr. Smith thinks there was a conspiracy against him causing him not to be promoted. He believes that your selection as acting program leader just further confirms his concerns. Dr. Smith provides you with a document titled "Public Records Request" where he asks for all of the program's meeting minutes, all annual evaluations for the program's faculty members, all emails sent or received by program members that mention his name, a copy of your personnel file, copies of any documents that show your salary and how much you are being paid to serve as program leader. Dr. Smith also tells you that he is considering suing the University and plans to have his attorney attend the next meeting of the program's faculty so he can see what is transpiring. He tells you his attorney is allowed to attend the meeting because of Florida's Sunshine law which requires all meetings be open to the public.
Please identify the issues you see above
- Florida's public records laws are extremely broad. A public record is defined as: "All documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material regardless of physical form or means of transmission made or received in connection with transactions of official business by UNF." See section 119.011, Florida Statutes.
- A document is a public record unless it fits into one of the few statutory exemptions. For example, faculty evaluative information is specifically exempt by statute. See section 1012.91, Florida Statutes. As a result, all records above, except for faculty annual evaluations, are subject to disclosure.
- All public records may be requested by any person, for any reason and UNF must respond to a public records request within a reasonable time. Only protection from abuse that UNF has is the ability to charge a requestor a "special service charge" for voluminous requests or requests that require the extensive use of IT resources.
- Florida's open meeting laws (Chapter 286, Florida Statutes) apply to only a limited number of meetings in a university environment. Most common are BOT meetings and search committees. Faculty member is mistaken about faculty department meetings being open to the public.
- Should involve Academic Affairs and General Counsel when presented by these types of issues.